Review: Call of Duty: World at War
Engine: Call of Duty 4 engine
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Release date: November 11, 2008
Genre: First-person shooter (FPS)
It’s hard to believe that this is all ready the fifth game in the Call of Duty series. Back in 2003, the first one came out, and every year there has been a new game.
The Call of Duty series had always been held in high regard for being one of the best World War 2 simulators, with the others being Brothers in Arms and an old hand, Medal of Honour.
So, it looks like in this installment of RRR (Recent Release Reviews), I’ll be going back to war again, and getting frustrated as I die again. Joy.
What is Call of Duty and why is it so popular?
Call of Duty is a series that burst onto the scene in 2003 with the first game, being developed by Infinity Ward. It set out to take on the all ready established Medal of Honour in the World War 2 FPS stakes.
The one thing that defines Call of Duty is its reliance on scripted events that are triggered by moves that the player makes. You will often notice that your squad, even though you aren’t in charge of it, will wait for you to scout ahead so that the mission can progress. So those of you who like to stay in the rear are in for a shock if you play any of the Call of Duty games.
The story is simple; you read about in history class. It takes place during World War 2, and there are two campaigns. The American campaign takes a rare and welcome look at the Pacific Theatre where they battle the Japanese, and centres around the character named Private Miller, of the U.S. Marine Corps. And the Russian campaign takes place in the European theatre as they advance towards Berlin, and you play as Private Dimitri Petrenko of the Red Army.
• Uses the COD 4: Modern Warfare engine.
• Corporal Roebuck voiced by Kiefer Sutherland.
• Sergeant Reznov voiced by Gary Oldman.
• Combat in the Pacific Theatre.
• Co-op mode.
• New weapons to play with.
CoD: WaW CapsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Each mission starts off with a well put together black& white and colour montage of real life footage as well as other snippets from the game and pictures that you would expect to see on the tables of the top brass who planned these missions, or war games enthusiasts, with figurines and other things.
The last time I’ve seen such great intros was probably Commandos 2.
The gameplay is objective based, like many war simulators, and the player must carry out certain tasks in order to progress along the campaign.
You can man anti-aircraft guns, ride on the back of tanks, and use the machineguns that are often found in the missions.
This new installment uses new weapons, like a portable German MG42, .30 cal machineguns and a double-barreled shotgun. There is the new addition of Japanese weaponry as well. The physics of handling a weapon has been accurately portrayed as well, with the player being knocked back a step or two by firing the panzershreck (anti-tank rocket launcher), and often missing the target at that.
There are plenty of enemies to get some target practice on, and you will note the difference between the approach of the Americans and the Russians as you play. The American Campaign is all about open environments, minimal cover, and using storming tactics with weapons like flamethrowers, bazookas, and M1 Garands with rifle grenades (excellent fun). There will also be a reliance on tanks, planes, and artillery to get the job done.
The Russians prefer more stealthy strategies if they can help it, especially in the early missions, with sniping, ducking, crawling and evading, in some very close combat urban warfare scenarios. When push comes to shove though, they will go all out to advance (the Russians were so ruthless, they would gun down their own troops if they tried to retreat or refused to move forward).
There is certainly more blood in is this game than any other CoD game. Enemies can lose their limbs, and explosions end up with bodies and blood being thrown up in the air, and some dying in an agonizing fashion, shaking on the ground. It definitely has gone for a more mature audience. Blood sprays out of gunshot wounds and you will often see it on the floors and the walls, instead of the candy floss coloured mist from previous games. Some enemies even get up after being mutilated and wait for you to gun them down or try to retreat.
There are also death cards that you can collect in single player. Aside from the cards looking sick, they unlock options that you can use later on in Co-op mode, when you can play with others.
This game uses the same engine as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and it looks just as good if not better. The lush jungles you comb through during the island assault are beautiful, and not to mention, the combat effects are very visceral and gory, with smoke, splinters and blood skyrocketing upwards after a successful rocket barrage or grenade.
In the European theatre, the bombed out buildings, piles of wood with glowing embers, and snow covered roads surround you, and the smoke from burning obstacles actually obscures your vision of the enemy as you try to get a bead on him.
The music in both campaigns is a curious mix of both classical inspired and rock, with distorted guitars making an appearance every now and again, lending it an adrenalin inducing rush when the action gets going and you’re right in the thick of it, battling the enemy. The American campaign has the typical Asian instruments, and the Russians, theirs as well.
As you can expect, the sound in a war game has to sound like a war is going on. Turn up your speakers and your sub-woofer or surround sound and enjoy the experience.
The guns all sound authentic, with the familiar ‘ping’ sound of the M1 Garand as it ejects its clip automatically (they were said to be very difficult to reload in the middle of a clip, although you can still do it in the game). The explosions are numerous with grenades and barrages landing all over the place, and of course the violent screams and shrieks of death flood the battleground.
In fact, with all the noise going on, it might be a good idea to turn on the subtitles!
There is a part in the game, the last American mission to be exact, where you can use mortar shells like grenades and throw them at the enemy. This was taken out of a scene from Saving Private Ryan.
The controls are a bit of a weak point in my opinion.
You have to get used to the fact that the sprint key is a push and release affair; if you hold the key, nothing happens. You can still choose between toggling crouching and going prone or having to hold in the button. It gets a little frustrating when you try to move and you realize that you’re still crouching and can’t move all that fast.
Just like in the Rainbow Six series, you have to manipulate the environment, like pressing jump when getting close to an object and the writing appears on the screen, to vault over it, instead of just jumping over it in real time without the fuss.
There’s nothing wrong with the shooting controls, mind you. It’s all straight-forward; you can fire from the hip, or for more accuracy and bullet conservation, you can aim down the sights and pick off the enemies nicely. Set your third mouse button as ‘reload’ and you’re all set.
What's the Score?
• Great graphics.
• Great music and sound.
• New additions like Co-op mode.
• Enhanced realism.
• AI a bit stupid at times.
• You can play through the single player campaigns quite quickly.
• No British campaign this time.
• No Captain Price, our favourite walrus-faced commander!
This, in my opinion, is one of the best and most graphic, realistic depictions of warfare I’ve seen to date, and certainly the best in the Call of Duty series.
Observations and other comments
The Russian campaign, although interesting, is getting a bit repetitive. In both Call of Duty 1 and 2, the player was involved in the advance on Berlin. That means at the end of World at War, it’s three times.
When you think about it, there was a lot going on in World War 2, but how many fresh ideas can you dig out?
After World at War, I’m kind of hoping that they will move out of the WW 2 era, and perhaps into the controversial Vietnam War (controversial, because the Americans didn’t win). There hasn’t been a CoD game set in Vietnam yet. Battlefield did it and came up short, with many claiming it was just a glorified BF 1942 mod. Men of Valor gave it a go and got somewhere, although it was bloody hard and a bit unpolished, and of course Vietcong tried but went largely unnoticed.
This would be the time to shine for Call of Duty, and hopefully we see more jungle warfare like the excellent American campaign from World at War.
There are two interesting things, whether intended or not, that World at War shares with the Doom franchise. Firstly, in the later levels of the Russian campaign, the player can pick up a double barreled shotgun, and it looks similar to the one found in Doom 3: RoE. The second is the character voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, Sgt. Roebuck. Roebuck is also a character in the Doom novels. Add to that the game engine uses fragments of id Tech technology...
Bugs and other issues
There are a few clipping problems, as well as getting stuck on objects and AI characters, resulting in death due to not being able to move out of the way of enemy fire.
What I think of it
I’ve always been a fan of World War 2 movies and games, and I absolutely enjoyed this to the max. It’s great to see that the developers have stepped away from being too modest, and gone to expressing what war is really like; bloody, dirty and hellish.
What do you think of Call of Duty: World at War?
© 2008 ANDR01D